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Erie Canal

Onondaga County, New York.

Erie Canal ends in Memphis, New York.

374 feet (114 meters)

166.15 miles long (267.40 kilometers)

7354356.71 miles (11835693.50 sq kilometers)

About The Erie Canal

All About the Erie Canal, NY

The Erie Canal is a waterway that connects New York City with the Great Lakes through the Hudson River. The canal was patterned after the Middlesex Canal in Massachusetts with a 40-foot wide canal prism shape top, and a 28-foot wide bottom. It is also 4 feet deep. It was a massive engineering project for its time, requiring 83 stone locks used to move boats up and down the canal. The Erie canal also had 18 aqueducts to carry it over other bodies of water. 

The water body begins at the Hudson River where it runs north until it reaches Cohoes where it reaches the west side of the Hudson before turning west again. Its waters then reach the Crescent where it continues west until it reaches Rome located in Oneida county. The canal’s waters turn several times in order to avoid outflowing into the nearby Oneida lake. At Canastota, the canal will pass by both Rochester and Syracuse until finally passing by Lockport where it turns southwest in order to reach the top of the Niagara Escarpment. It’ll carry on until it hits Tonawanda, the Erie Canal then heads towards the Buffalo River where it finally starts its connection with Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. 

While the canal was not the first built by the United States Government, it was one of the most influential projects of the US government because of the scale of the project as well as its resounding financial success. The efficiency and space provided by boats traveling to and from Buffalo and New York, could not compare to regular horse-drawn transportation. In turn, transportation costs significantly lowered. Another big factor in the canal’s success was how it ran along multiple towns and major agricultural sites. The booming trade to and from Buffalo and New York as well as those in between, made enough money to repay the state loan used to construct the Erie Canal.

Erie Canal Fishing Description

Fishing in the Erie Canal, NY

As the Erie Canal was, at the time of completion, one of the longest canals in the world, the variety of the fish species in the area is diverse. There are fish to catch all-year-long with the most popular species being yellow perch, walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and tiger musky (muskellunge).

For new anglers, it’s best to start with yellow perch for practice as they usually move around in schools of up to 200 fish. A spin-cast combo spooled with a mono of about 2-4lbs works. Small jigs, spinners and jigging spoons can be used as lures. Otherwise the largemouth and smallmouth bass are probably the next fish anglers will set their eyes on. Bass anglers would do well to bring a 6 or 8 weight rod. Smallmouth bass in particular are easier to catch when using a spinning rod with a line test of about 6 to 10 pounds. When using bait, both are receptive to using minnows, plugs, insects, and worms. When using streamers on the largemouth bass, it’s best to use colorful variants, in order to catch their attention.

Channel catfish can also be found in the canal. Most anglers will use the catfish’s sense of smell by using bait like stinkbait and fibrous cheese with lots of amino acids, creating a strong smell that attracts them. Anglers also use longer rods when catching catfish as it allows them to use techniques like pitching and flipping. Be careful when handling channel catfish as they can be slippery, and with their sharp fins, can cause cuts when handled poorly. 

Lastly, the walleye, northern pike, and the muskellunge are the trophies to get in the Erie Canal. All three are difficult to catch for different reasons. The walleye is difficult to find as during the daytime it will swim in depths of 10 feet or greater. Always check surrounding structures, like deep weed edges, rock piles, and even basins of suspended schools of baitfish. When spotting a walleye it’s best to use live bait such as minnows, nightcrawlers, and leeches. Most anglers will use a live bait rig with a ½ pound sinker, a swivel, a 3 - 6 foot leader of a 6-pound fishing line, and a No. 4 or 6 hook. Conversely, the northern pike may actually be easier to find but are harder to catch as they’re known as voracious eaters. These fish like to play with their food so slowly reeling in plastic bait, in order to make it look like an injured fish will help attract them. Make sure to bring a 7-foot medium action rod that can handle up to 15 pounds of weight, as well as using a 15-20 pound braided line so chances of a broken line will decrease. 

Muskellunge are fish with needle-like teeth, so hooks with barbs are hard to remove. Whether trolling or drift fishing, most anglers like to use crankbaits. When trolling, crankbaits are usually dropped in places where muskellunge are usually found like weedy reefs and rocky structures. When drift fishing, choose larger crankbaits that make the fish think they’re eating larger prey. Finally, these fish are strong enough to snap a line just by clamping their jaws, so having a 50lbs line-test will work well.

Erie Canal Seasonal & Other Description

Fishing Seasonality in the Erie Canal, NY

There are fish to catch in the Erie Canal all year round. The perfect time to catch perch is from late spring to early summer. Likewise, walleye are best found during spring, specifically during nighttime or early morning when the water temperature is cooler. For northern pike, May is the best time to catch them after the spawning season. It’s the same for both largemouth and smallmouth bass, as May through June are the best time to start catching them as after spawning they tend to congregate in shallower waters. For the Fall and Winter seasons, the channel catfish and the muskellunge are in season. The catfish won’t be as aggressive during other seasons and the muskellunge are putting on fat for the colder months. 

Temperature and Optimal Seasons

Fishing Seasonality in the Erie Canal, NY

There are fish to catch in the Erie Canal all year round. The perfect time to catch perch is from late spring to early summer. Likewise, walleye are best found during spring, specifically during nighttime or early morning when the water temperature is cooler. For northern pike, May is the best time to catch them after the spawning season. It’s the same for both largemouth and smallmouth bass, as May through June are the best time to start catching them as after spawning they tend to congregate in shallower waters. For the Fall and Winter seasons, the channel catfish and the muskellunge are in season. The catfish won’t be as aggressive during other seasons and the muskellunge are putting on fat for the colder months. 

Erie Canal Fish Species

Fishing in the Erie Canal, NY

As the Erie Canal was, at the time of completion, one of the longest canals in the world, the variety of the fish species in the area is diverse. There are fish to catch all-year-long with the most popular species being yellow perch, walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and tiger musky (muskellunge).

For new anglers, it’s best to start with yellow perch for practice as they usually move around in schools of up to 200 fish. A spin-cast combo spooled with a mono of about 2-4lbs works. Small jigs, spinners and jigging spoons can be used as lures. Otherwise the largemouth and smallmouth bass are probably the next fish anglers will set their eyes on. Bass anglers would do well to bring a 6 or 8 weight rod. Smallmouth bass in particular are easier to catch when using a spinning rod with a line test of about 6 to 10 pounds. When using bait, both are receptive to using minnows, plugs, insects, and worms. When using streamers on the largemouth bass, it’s best to use colorful variants, in order to catch their attention.

Channel catfish can also be found in the canal. Most anglers will use the catfish’s sense of smell by using bait like stinkbait and fibrous cheese with lots of amino acids, creating a strong smell that attracts them. Anglers also use longer rods when catching catfish as it allows them to use techniques like pitching and flipping. Be careful when handling channel catfish as they can be slippery, and with their sharp fins, can cause cuts when handled poorly. 

Lastly, the walleye, northern pike, and the muskellunge are the trophies to get in the Erie Canal. All three are difficult to catch for different reasons. The walleye is difficult to find as during the daytime it will swim in depths of 10 feet or greater. Always check surrounding structures, like deep weed edges, rock piles, and even basins of suspended schools of baitfish. When spotting a walleye it’s best to use live bait such as minnows, nightcrawlers, and leeches. Most anglers will use a live bait rig with a ½ pound sinker, a swivel, a 3 - 6 foot leader of a 6-pound fishing line, and a No. 4 or 6 hook. Conversely, the northern pike may actually be easier to find but are harder to catch as they’re known as voracious eaters. These fish like to play with their food so slowly reeling in plastic bait, in order to make it look like an injured fish will help attract them. Make sure to bring a 7-foot medium action rod that can handle up to 15 pounds of weight, as well as using a 15-20 pound braided line so chances of a broken line will decrease. 

Muskellunge are fish with needle-like teeth, so hooks with barbs are hard to remove. Whether trolling or drift fishing, most anglers like to use crankbaits. When trolling, crankbaits are usually dropped in places where muskellunge are usually found like weedy reefs and rocky structures. When drift fishing, choose larger crankbaits that make the fish think they’re eating larger prey. Finally, these fish are strong enough to snap a line just by clamping their jaws, so having a 50lbs line-test will work well.

Channel Catfish

Habitat: Rivers, Tidal Mouths, Bends, Wrecks

Weight: 2 - 4 Pounds

Length: 15" - 25"

Muskellunge

Habitat: Weedy Edges, Rocky Shoals, Shallow Waters

Weight: 15 - 70 Pounds

Length: 24" - 72"

Northern Pike

Habitat: Onshore

Weight: 2 - 34 Pounds

Length: 16" - 29"

Walleye

Habitat: Lake, River

Weight: 1 - 10 Pounds

Length: 12" - 42"